Understanding the wine market in the United States
e-Toile: Hubert Surville, you are the President and Founder of The Other Wine and Spirits (OWS) and since January 2011 , the COO of Barton & Guestier USA, the first brand of French wines distributed in this area.
What has changed for you since that date and how has the local market evolved since a year and a half?
Hubert Surville: We founded The Other Wines and Spirits LLC (OWS) in 2006 and began to import wines and spirits to the United States in 2007.
We founded, on behalf of Barton and Guestier France, their subsidiary, Barton and Guestier / Patriarch USA, in December of 2010.
Barton and Guestier, which is the oldest wine merchant in France in business since 1725 has an extraordinary reputation and network.
The first positive element is to benefit from this fantastic network of distributors from all over the United States and in Canada, countries that we can also cover with the subsidiary in Miami.
In 2012, we also created Surville Enterprises, which serves to support companies wishing to establish their brand in the United States but do not have a licence to sell wine and spirits or enough manpower to manage their business in American territory.
For all and especially for Barton and Guestier:
a. Our first task was to take all the contracts and make them profitable
b. Our second was to re- position the brand in order to restore the growth that it was lacking for many years.
c. The French wine market seems to have finally stabilized with a market share of 3% in the United States. Therefore, we must take advantage of this and present the products to the buyers.
d. 50% of wine brands present today in stroes did not exist 5 years ago. Thus, it is very important to create new concepts every day, even in a world that sometimes seems the same as it was 50 years ago, which is where there is a problem with French offer.
We have an integrated marketing service that includes a design studio that manages development in collaboration with the trademark owners.
e-Toile : In the framework of “French Week Miami” 2012, organized by the French- American Chamber of Commerce (FACC), you organized a round table directing its focus on commercial strategies in the wine industry, which will take place on November 16.
Can you first tell us the reasons you decided to organize this discussion and then describe the event and to what kind of audience it addresses?
Hubert Surville: The round table discussion on wines that I will have the pleasure of hosting on November 16th from 9 : 00 am to noon in the offices of Gary Robinson in Brickell will address vary large players in this business:
a. Mel Dick, Senior Vice- President of Southern Wine and Spirits and the Founder and President of the company’s wine division, representing 5 billion dollars in sales of wines in the United States and in 35 of the 50 states.
b. Chip Casidy, a "Wine Technology " professor at FIU and a true living encyclopedia for everything related to French wine ! He has been buying French wine from ‘Crown Liquors ’ for many years.
c. Jay Spaleta, of Wine Enthusiast, magazine sector leader.
d. Philippe Marion, Senior Vice President of Sales and Marketing for Groupe Castel, leader of wines in Europe and in France.
e. It will be followed by a presentation from Robert Lewis, a legal specialist in this area who will present the complexities in law that are seen in this industry.
The theme is a catalyst. It is about the marketing of luxury brand French wines in the United States.
This is where the debate lies, which is at the same time, a paradox. The best French brands peaked in price and represent the French “know-how” in the rest of the world and yet the first French brand of wine sold in this area is not even represented in the top 100 brands in the market !
This theme, as well as the quality of the people presenting should gather many consumers interested in the marketing of wine. The debate will be open and questions from the audience are welcome. Thus, we expect a great deal of interaction.
My goal is to:
a. Modify the mentality of the operators to make them realize they need to wake up and adapt in order to gain market share in the biggest market in the world, namely, the United States.
b. Mobilize the wine federations, the regions and the public funds that are available in order to avoid the fragmentation of supply and focus on real projects that the market is currently demanding.
c. Sensitize the public and make them understand that French wine is not just exceptional wine. It is also one of the healthiest because it is low in sugar in comparison to wines of the "new world" including American, Chilean and others with only 2g as opposed to 15g of residual sugar. Our population is aging and therefore monitors the amount of sugar in their daily intake.
e-Toile : In the program of this edition of “French Week Miami” , rosé wines are honored first on November 1st with the visit of the French Ambassador to the United States and then on November 14th in Villa d’Azur in Miami Beach. How can you explain this craze for rosé wines in the United States (and France!) ?
Hubert Surville: The success of rosé wines in the United States is not new but it is new for dry rosé. Indeed, 17 % of wines consumed in this area are rosé.
Historically, it started with the sweet wines from Portugal, such as Mateus, then Italian, then Californian with " White Zinfandel ".
It was not until recently that the world of dry rosé wines opened to Americans.
In this way, rosé wines have become the "eldorado" of French wines because of they are light, fruity and dry, perfect for cocktails and also for their pairing with light dishes.
They are also associated with festive events and easy to drink because they have very little tannins.
The dry rosé wines represent a privileged area for France because it has now become our specialty.
Syrah has become an Australian specialty, Pinot Noir from Oregon, Washington and the Russian River in California earned an international reputation, the Cabernet Sauvignon are the spearhead of Napa Valley, Malbec for Aentina, Tannat no longer in Cahors but in Uruguay, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand ... etc.
Dry rosé wine, curiously, put together red and white, women find it elegant while men see it as festive.
It is a wine for pleasure and a wine for gatherings. French rosé wine has a stronggrowth potential here!
e-Toile: You have also brought your expertise to “French Spice”. In fact, besides the introduction of "Café Spice", a new addition to the 2012 version is the proposed list of French wines to customers selecting this menu.
What criteria did you base your choices on for the list of wines that will be presented from the 1st to the 30th of November in all participating restaurants?
Hubert Surville: Because they are low in sugar, French wines are perfect for "French Spice".
With my team, we created a list of wines called "Pairig collection ".
Like its name indicates, the wines are defined by their association with certain foods and the photo attached to this article (above) defines it much better.
The wines are excellent. Three of them are declared "best buys" since the beginning of the year, a first place award for the best value for money.
These wines are loyal to their roots. In fact, their presentation is innovating and reassuring for a consumer that is often intimidated by the wide choice offered or by uninformative labels.
Within the "Wine and spirits Committee" of the French-American Chamber of Commerce of Miami, other providers of French wines and spirits joined us to provide restaurateurs and consumers a wide choice at exceptionally competitive prices.
As a result, we offered a 30 % discount for restaurateurs participating in “French Spice” , allowing them to present our best wines at attractive prices ... a great incentive to discover French wines.
Down to $ 20 a bottle, our goal is simply to improve the consumer experience in French restaurants offering participants unfamiliar wines or wines they could not buy other circumstances.
Barton & Guestier USA
"Marketing of French Wines in the USA, Luxury or Brand?"
November 16, 2012 - 9:00 AM to noon
Mel Dick, Senior Vice President, Southern Wine & Spirits of America
Jay Spaleta, Vice President of Wine Enthusiast Magazine
Philippe Marion, Vice President sales and Marketing, Castel Group
Chip Cassidi, Professor of Wine Technology, FIU
Moderator: Hubert Surville, Chief Operating Officer, Barton & Guestier
Adresse : GrayRobinson, P.A. -1221 Brickell Avenue, Miami
For more info about "French Week Miami*", please visit http://www.frenchweekmiami.org/
* French Week Miami was founded by the French-American Chamber of Commerce of Miami and is organized in partnership with the Consulate General of France in Miami..
Article published Oct. 30, 2012.